GurgaonWorkersNews no.53 – December 2012
*** A worker’s Life – What all we/you do – Faridabad Majdoor Samachar no.288
A conversation with a worker from Faridabad, his upbringing in a village in UP, his labour migration to the Punjab as an agricultural worker, his life as an industrial worker in Delhi area. It is his individual story, but it is at the same time the story of a dominant part of global working class today: the migration between village and town, the wandering between different jobs and sectors, the dissolution of old social structures, the necessity to form new ones.
*** Suggested Reading for Future Armament
The global and historical character of the current crisis forces us to coordinate both debate and practice ‘for workers self-emancipation’ on an international scale. Following recently written or translated texts are selective, but we think that they can stand as examples for ‘general theses’, ‘concrete analysis’ and ‘historical debate’ of class struggle and revolutionary movement.
A longer article dealing with the question of the ‘market’-character of capitalism, questioning out-dated ‘socialist’ concepts which equate capitalism with the anarchic market and socialism with the state-planned economy:
A text describing the relationship between the struggles and ideas of the workers of the Porto Marghera chemical plant in Italy, along with the group Potere Operaio which they were closely linked to, and the ex-student activists in West Germany who tried to learn from the Italian example and develop similar workers’ initiatives in their own part of Europe.
An historical and political overview on the non-proletarian and therefore non-communist character of international Maoism:
A worker’s Life – What all we/you do – Fms no.288
A conversation with a worker from Faridabad, his upbringing in a village in UP, his labour migration to the Punjab as agricultural worker, his life as an industrial worker in Delhi area. It is his individual story, but it is at the same time the story of a dominant part of global working class today: the migration between village and town, the wandering between different jobs and sectors, the dissolution of old social structures, the necessity to form new ones. Their existence bridges the knowledge of agricultural work, the knowledge about the misery of village life, the skills of modern industry and industrial struggle, the anger towards the urban betrayal. In the face of their social experience, any claim that workers’ consciousness is necessarily reduced to the ‘economic dimension’ will be doomed to wither in the shadow of irrelevance. The ‘falling back’ into the village becomes untenable, so does the ‘leap ahead’ into the urban whirlpool. The whirl’s centre is formed of mainly temporary employment in core industries, connected to both, global production-chains and the large fringes of slum economy. The centrifugal forces are growing and hardly allow a settled existence. The new desires and collectivity emerge from the central point and are washed into the periphery. Only if future working class movements are able to keep the social connection between urban industrial centres and periphery will they be able to express a communist tendency. The current social connection is on the shoulders of the migrating workers. The Pearl River generation of migrating workers has become the pendulum of global capital. Their pushs-and-pulls between southern hinterland and global workbench and the rushes of northern austerity crisis will have to crack the systemic borderline of under/development and reiterate the necessity to make the step beyond. Another recent descriptive report on ‘village exodus’:
A worker, 33 – 34 years old.
I get up at 5 am in the the morning. After I have washed myself I wake up my wife, so that she can prepare food. I take the food in a lunch-box and leave on by bicycle towards Badarpur at 6:15 am.
A bicycle and a slum hut are essential. In 1994 I bought a slum hut for 1,300 Rs in Faridabad Sector 33. When I was living in Faridabad, but worked in Okhla, which is about 20 km away, I still went by bicycle, the same when I worked in a factory in Bahadurgarh. In the morning, after having prepared food, I cycled three and a half hours to Bahadurgarh, in the evening I cycled three and a half hours back.
I arrive in Badarpur at 7:40 am. I leave my bike at a work-mate’s house in Badarpur. The company bus arrives at 7:50 am in Badarpur. It arrives at 8:30 am at the factory in NOIDA, Sector 80, Phase 2.
I was born in a village in the east of Uttar Pradesh. My father had four bigha of land, an ox, two buffalos and a cow. My father shared an ox with a neighbour and used them to plough land. He did this till 1997. Our neighbour then sold the ox and since then my father uses a tractor to work the land. After the death of my maternal grandfather, my grandmother went to work in Kolkata at his place. My grandmother had sent my mother to school until the 5th class. My mother’s first husband died, she was married again. My father is illiterate. My mother taught me. After I learned a bit here and there I was enrolled straight into the 5th class. When I was in the 6th class I fell very ill. They brought me to a ‘healer’. Then to a [village] small doctor. Then to a big doctor. I would not be cured, in a state of tension on our journey back to the village my father through me into the canal. My mother fished me out and cleaned me, crying, she said that I should go and live with older relatives in Gorakhpur. Expenses, they had to pay 47,000 Rs for my treatment. All my mothers savings [jewels] were spent. She had borrowed money from some people in the village, for six per cent interests per month.
I enter the factory at 8:55 am. I change my clothes, after drinking some water and going to the toilet the machines start. I polish steel. It is hard work. you continue to get hurt.
I failed in the 10th class. Shortly after my illness my brother got separated from the family – my father had not given him any land, so my brother worked for wages or on leasehold in the village in order to sustain wife and children. The money-lenders asked for immediate repayment of debt. I left the village, jumped a train towards Punjab together with a friend who had also failed his 10th class, I had a school book in my pocket and the my school identification-card. In the Punjab the black commandos of the police where everywhere. I found a job in a village, milking cows and buffalos, washing them, grazing them, collecting their dung. I did not like it. I left the Punjab for Delhi, first stayed with someone from my village, then with the husband of my sister in Faridabad. In October 1993 I started working in the Allied [Alight] factory in DLF Industrial Estate Phase 1. We manufactured steering elements for tractors and pistons. I had to clean the moulded parts, make new moulds, dispose of scrap. We worked eight hours shifts and were paid 1,600 Rs, no ESI, no PF. I walked on foot to and back from the factory. I kept 350 Rs for my daily expenses and sent the rest back to the village to repay the debt. I worked there for seven months… I then changed to BPL factory in the same sector, where I earned 1,800 Rs. In the department where they prepare the colour people worked eight hours, in the dying and printing department 12 hours on two shifts. In order to earn some pennies more I went after work to a metal workshop in order to learn metal polishing. There was only one thing going round in my head: money. Earn more money, reduce expenses to the max, repay your debt. I wore second-hand clothes. I found another job in Tekhand, Delhi, in a metal-polishing workshop, it paid 2,000 Rs. I bought a bicycle – it took an hour to reach Tekhand. Then another job, same area, same wage. Then a factory in Okhla D-45, polishing brass, it paid 2,500 Rs. Then, after five month, I started a job at Vedit Engineering in Faridabad, because it was nearer, I earned 2,400 Rs. I worked there for two and a half years. Some guys close to management had me kicked out. I went back to a factory in Okhla, Phase 2, Plot T 7, they paid 2,800 Rs. There we had to work four hours overtime per day, so I rented a room in Ali village for 200 Rs per month. A fitter working in this factory went to Bahadurgarh. We talked. I shifted to Bahadurgarh Industrial Estate, worked in Crown Bros. factory, they paid 3,000 Rs. But no ESI, no PF. I had worked there for a year when I heard that a metal-polishing factory in Okhla was opened and offering permanent jobs. they only paid 2,400 Rs – but my sister’s husband said that you will see the benefits of a permanent job only later on. So I started at M.A. Export in 2001, as a steel polisher. I cycled 12 km to work, it took me an hour. you are forced to do physical exercise, the machine itself enforces exercise. Steel-polishing is hard work, it makes you sweat. With the sweat, you lost half of the illness inside. I was 21 – 22 years old at the time. There was no tiredness. I thought that I had found a permanent job, that I cannot give it up, that I should increase production and make the company happy. Lost in this logic we also increased the pollution surrounding us, the company went also into trouble.
Tea-break is at 11 am. For 15 minutes we laugh, make jokes. Nowadays, I also only work according to norm. We have to save ourselves from pollution, we should not increase it. Experience had told me that to do extra-work means to pull the rug beneath your feet, it increases the difficulties for your fellow workers. This is why you have to work only according to the norm. At 1:30 there is a meal break. In the factory there is only a canteen for white-collar guys and management, not for the workers.
At the beginning I thought it was great to have a permanent job. For the first two and a half month I worked day shift, then for four month I alternated between day and night shift, finally I worked for two years on night-shift continuously, the day shift was for the senior workers. To work nights means enormous difficulties – lack of sleep, not being able to sleep during the day, not eating properly, no time to meet friends. If you refuse, they tell you to quit the job. I worked, because I was forced to work, at first 10 hours shifts, then 12 hours. The workers on day-shift started to engage in a struggle with management in 2004. I did not know what it was about. trouble started and when the guys from the labour department arrived I got to know that it was about double payment of over-time and other benefits. All managers started to work in the production department. After some days four workers were suspended, then another four, then another four – when twelve workers were kicked out the a case was filed through the union. But did the factory continue to run, or not? Several workers took their final dues and left. I decided to stay with those who struggled and not to leave the job. I had paid back my debt, there was no tension from that side, no pressure anymore.
In 2005 rumours emerged about conflicts between the company directors. They stopped paying our wages. They said that they would close the factory… and opened a new factory under a different name for the same work in Okhla. My mother told me, “Son, fight till the end”. My father and my wife also told me to fight. My father sent 700 Rs as support from the village. My wife took a job at Shahi Export garments factory in Faridabad. If I found the time I worked two or three hours a day on piece-rate in a small metal-polishing workshop. Management not only stopped paying our wages, they also stopped production in the old factory. We complained about that at the labour department, through the union. But instead of waiting for the next court date and sitting in front of the factory gate we went to other factory workers in Okhla industrial area. We wrote our issue on placards and stood with them during shift-start in the industrial area, we changed our location every day. We went with our placards to Delhi, to meet other people. We heard fifty different stories every day, talking to people. We focussed on what seemed right to us. We did not fear the police, nor did we provoke them. If the police told us to bugger off, we left and re-grouped at a different place. We met all kinds of people and this encouraged us. the company exported their products to America, some friends in America took placards and stood in front of the shops where our metal artifacts were sold, The fact that they stood there and that we met a lot of workers in the industrial areas here put a lot of pressure on management. After five months we were paid our outstanding wages. We were hired in the newly opened factory as regular permanent workers with a non-probationary status. For us, for our friends, for our fellows, for our parents and wives 2006 was a very happy year.
The machines run again after the meal break at 1:35 pm. If you work at the machine all kinds of thoughts come and go through your brain. What will we do in the future? What should we not do? My parents educated me, but I polish steel. What will our children do?
The new factory in Okhla ran under the name of M.A. Design. We worked there for one and a half years when management shifted the factory to NOIDA Sector 63. The company provided a bus service from Delhi to NOIDA. I had to get up one hour earlier than before. After one and a half years the company suddenly stopped the bus service. The company had laid a trap for us in order to be able to kick us out. Apart from us the company had hired other permanent workers and in NOIDA they employed workers hired through contractors. We undertook a collective action, supported by friends and the company re-started the bus service. We focussed on our collectivity, which had weakened over time. It is necessary to extend this collectivity… A year ago the company shifted the factory within NOIDA. The company shifted a lot of people without giving them transfer letters. In the old factory only our group of 20 workers, who had taken part in the placard actions, were left – the company hoped that we would insist on transfer letters and once isolated and tied up they would have been able to deal with us. When they told us to shift to the new factory we just did that, but once we started working in the new factory we put forward the demand for transfer letters. After one year they gave us the transfer letter.
At 4 pm we get tea and biscuits. Then we do the final work of steel polishing – to get out the shine. At 5 pm we wash ourselves and at 5:30 pm the shift is finished. Us 20 workers refuse to stay longer and work overtime on piece rate, but the other workers are made to do it. The bus leaves the factory at 5:45 pm. I arrive at home at 8 pm. I go for a stroll. We greet each other in the street, but we don’t go to each others houses to talk. A friend of mine from Bihar and me we see each other every day since four or five years and feel the need for it, but we don’t sit down and talk. I talk to my wife and children. I finish dinner at 9 pm. I watch a bit of tV. At 9:30 pm I start to get sleepy.